She’s walking along the Bridges, hair glinting like copper wire in the December sun, unaware that by the time she reaches the High Street she is as good as dead. Although dead would be better than what’s waiting for her, literally just around the corner. The fact that she’s got no choice in the matter is an irony sweet enough to suck on, because she has herself been Chosen. Through every fault of her own, she’s come top of the stupid-cow-born-to-be-a-victim Hit Parade and she’ll get hers, make no mistake.
Heading down the High Street now the bitch actually has a jaunty spring in her step so it is definitely time to decide which part of her to latch onto. It’s a big decision and well worth taking time over. She’s pretty well rugged up but the face is naked (flesh is best), and what a young, open face it is, all freckles and big brown eyes, now squinting against the low slung sun, oblivious to everything but the rut of her small, nothing life. She’s so thick that she has no idea what’s about to hit her. The fact is she’s being given an honour she doesn’t deserve by becoming a member of a very select and exclusive club. She is after all only human. But looking on the bright side, all of that humanity can be rinsed away like blood and matter down the plug hole: the hideous boyfriend; the dreary friends she never really liked; and that appalling record collection mostly consisting of some little dwarf called Prince. Well the victim formerly known as Jane was herself going to be renamed if she played her cards wrong.
The steady pulse of her life force ebbs and flows and the intimacy of this moment is so profound it feels raw, exposed, like being flayed alive by a true connoisseur of the craft. It will take time to replicate this girl down to the last eyelash but when it’s finally done, the simulacrum will stalk the world; spirit made flesh while the so-called ‘real’ Jane lies rotting somewhere, anywhere. This dance has been done so many times, the names, faces, identities of the Chosen have blurred, become a composite making up a greater whole, superior in every way that counts. Oh, some of her so-called friends might notice some improvements to the original model, true, but that is a risk worth taking. Most of them would assume she’d just changed, maybe even coming up with entertaining hypotheses on those dismal nights out down the pub about why that would be. But whatever they decided, it wouldn’t change the script and they’d do what humans always did with anything they couldn’t quite grasp: pretend they did.
But at some point the new body always destroyed itself, as though responding to an alarm call that could not be bargained with or shut down. And so it would begin again in a never-ending cycle and yes, the club became a little less exclusive with the passage of time as more and more members swelled its ranks. For now though, the girl’s essence is like fine wine coursing through veins soon-to-be-made flesh and her blind instinct to survive makes her malleable.
What was the legend humans told about this? Ah yes: if you met your doppelganger, or double, you would surely die. True in a way, but not the whole truth. But what could you expect from creatures who were only fit to be food. Doppelgangers were as far above humans in the evolutionary chain as humans were to amoebas. Like a pupa emerging from its chrysalis, I begin to remember myself and the rebirth begins. And in the act of naming, the ‘I’ becomes separate from yet connected to her. At least for now.
Like a drunk on the stroke of New Year poised for an unsought kiss, my mouth extends wider, wider, until her face is covered by it and the hooks slide into the tender meat in a movement that is almost sexual, although I cannot feel such a thing, not yet anyway. In the time spent between the Chosen after the last body has worn out, most of the vices of the living are quickly forgotten, until the next one of course. She continues walking, although she stumbles slightly and I feel her brief moment of nausea.
I delve deeper, deeper into the bare essentials of her, until I am she and she is me and we are Jane.
She is shopping for ingredients for a meal she’s going to make for her boyfriend Tom. It’s a complicated vegetarian curry, because Tom’s a veggie and she wants to surprise him with what she can do if she really tries. She’s been thinking about going veggie herself because he’s always going on and on about how her eating habits are ‘an affront to any right-minded person’. He’s probably right and anyway if they’re going to spend the rest of their lives together, a little compromise goes a long way. Besides, tonight’s the night and she’s going to ask him to move in so they can be a proper couple. He’s been a bit distant recently and she did wonder for a bit if he was having an affair, but he’d never do that to her. Not her Tom. They just need to spend more time together that’s all.
I absorb her thoughts about tonight although her mind barely registers the violation, like a stone skiffing the smooth surface of a pond. She feels a surge of brief but intense panic as though something terrible has happened, but she can’t think what it is. Shush my pet, my darling, everything’s fine, no need to worry about a thing. And after I refine her thoughts a little, divert them into more exciting channels, she does shush, starting to feel a little better. Pretty soon she’s verging on perky, giggling even, as a thought comes out of nowhere accompanied by an sense of ineffable rightness with the world.
She can’t believe she didn’t see it before, but, she could really turn this Tom situation around and have some fun for a change. Why not give the fat tosser a gourmet meal of iron filings; a playful reminder that he really shouldn’t be two-timing her with that raddled old tart from down the road? A wavering smile, not entirely her own, lifts the corners of her mouth causing an old woman passing by to smile in return. If only she knew.
Yes, iron filings, that should do the job nicely. Compared to the revolting swill he usually ate, she wouldn’t be surprised if he begged for seconds. And let’s not forget, the cheap, meat-dodging bastard was always looking for new ways to supplement the iron in his diet.
And that was where I stepped out of the doppelganger’s thoughts and back into my own. Momentarily disorientated, I watched Jane saunter ahead down the Royal Mile with the doppelganger swinging gently from her face.
Who am I? Well, that’s a good question and most days I’m not sure I know the answer. My name though is Rose Garnett and I’m a stealer of souls. By the time I’m finished with the doppelganger, it won’t be doubling up on anyone anytime soon.